Queensrÿche – ‘American Soldier’

Released through Rhino Records March, 2009

THE BAND:
Geoff Tate – vocals, horns
     
www.geofftate.com
Michael Wilton – guitars
     
www.michaelwilton.com
Ed Jackson – bass
Scott Rockenfield – drums
    
www.rockenwraps.com
       
Special Guests:
Emily Tate – vocals on “home Again”
Jason Ames – vocals on “Sliver” & “If I Were King”
A.J. Fratto – vocals on “Sliver”
Vincent Solano – vocals on “A Dead Man’s Words”
Randy Gane – keyboards
Kelly Gray – guitars
Damon Johnson - guitars


TRACK FRAGMENTS:

1.) “Sliver” – The track opens with a single vocal line.  This leads into a rhythm guitar riff.  There is a minor lead guitar solo over the top of the main musical intro section.  In between the notes of the minor lead guitar solo there is a drill sergeant vocal line.  There is a small Rockenfield drum fill connecting the musical intro with the musical verse.  Michael Wilton slows the rhythm guitar down for the musical verse.  The last lyric of the first two lyric lines were echoed.  Underneath the last two lyric lines of the opening verse Scott switched from a standard hi-hat rhythm to a rhythm played on his tom-toms.  Michael wrote a very cool short rhythm guitar riff for the chorus of this track.  The musical section connecting the first chorus with the second verse consisted of a mono vocal line jumping between the speakers over the top of a couple lead guitar licks.  There are a couple of lyric lines on the second verse that Geoff double tracked.  Jason Slater & Kelly Grey should great an award for the production value of this release and we’re just one song into it!!!!!  There is a lead guitar solo after the second chorus. 
2.) “Unafraid” – This track opens with an air raid siren, helicopter, airplane, along with distant soldiers’ effect.  This effect leads into the voice of a veteran speaking of war.  Underneath the veteran there is just a hint of battle sounds.  These speaking sections are actually the verses of the song, which was a great idea!!!  The musical intro opens with a Rockenfield snare pattern.  There are a lot of drummers out there however, none as stick to snare control such as Rockenfield.  There is lines a Geoff begins singing the chorus before the guitar and bass line kick-in.  The way the guys wrote the song makes the choruses very short.  The next verse consisted of two different solders speaking.  The same goes for the third verse and fourth verses.  There is a small lead guitar riff underneath the fourth verse.  The veterans speaking range from the WWII era up to Iraq.  The outro consisted of a helicopter effect.  There is not anything special musically going on this song.  The main focus of the song is the veterans as which it should be. 
3.) “Hundred Mile Stare” – The helicopter effect of track two leads into the electric guitar feedback that opens the next track.  The main musical intro consisted of two different rhythm guitar riffs.  It sounded like both rhythm guitars change riffs for the musical verse.  Vocally this is going to go down in Queensrÿche history as one of those tracks that express Geoff’s vocal ability and control.  There is a small Rockenfield snare fill that connects the musical verse with the musical chorus.  The way Tate arranged the lead & backing vocals of the chorus has the lead vocals over lapping the backing vocals.  This gives for a very strange effect.  The last four lyrics of the third lyric line were double tracked by Geoff.  The fifth and seventh lyric lines of this verse Geoff also double tracked.  The solo connects the second chorus with the breakdown section.  This solo was very laid back.  Underneath the musical arrangements of the breakdown section there are very subtle bomb explosion effects.  
4.) “At 30,000 Ft” – This track opens with heavy breathing underneath a soldier speaking.  This leads into a Pink Floyd influenced intro arrangement.  Rockenfield’s stick control on the drum line for this intro was amazing!!  The musical verse was done with a sixteenth-note hi-hat pattern.  Because Michael used an electric picking arrangement for the verse made the main musical instrumentation the sixteenth-note hi-hat pattern.  Geoff double tracked the third lyric line of the first verse.  He also double tracked the third and fourth lyric line of the pre-chorus.  The musical arrangement really does not kick-in until the musical chorus.  Much like the song the lead guitar solo has an abstract feel to it.  It also is very short for such a long song. 
5.) “A Dead Man’s Word” – There is no pause between this track and the track before it.  The intro of this track consisted of a very simple Arabic sounding rhythm guitar.  The way the lead vocals of this track were recorded was amazing! There is a small musical rest connecting the verse with the chorus.  There is an underling vocal effect underneath the lead vocal lines of the second verse.  You are drawn into Geoff’s lead vocal sound that the entire music track takes a back seat.  There is a small saxophone solo leading into the outro this sax solo was done with an Arabic feel.     
6.) “The Killer” – This intro opens with a snare drum fill.  The main intro section consisted of two different rhythm guitar arrangements.  There is a small rhythm change for the musical pre-verse.  The way Geoff’s lead vocals were recorded has them over lapping.  This added a great effect to the vocal lines.  Scott changed his drum pattern to where it sounded kind of like a machine gun going off for the chorus.  Michael also does this with the rhythm guitar arrangement.  The lead guitar solo was played by both Michael Wilton and either Kelly or Damon, underneath the lead guitar solo Scott plays a snare fill very similar to the one he played on the opening track of ‘Mindcrime’.   
7.) “Middle Of Hell” –This track opens with a Scott Rockenfield drum rhythm before going into the main intro section.  The main intro consisted of two different rhythm guitar riffs.  Over the top of the intro Geoff is whispering the words ‘wake up’.  The vocal tracks were multi-tracked and must sound amazing listening to it through headphones.  There is a small horn arrangement connecting the first chorus with the first verse.  There is a small rhythm guitar change connecting the second chorus with the second verse.  The lead guitar solo for this song is very laid back and has an almost abstract feel.
8.) “If I Were King” – This track opens with several whole-note guitar riffs.  There is a spoken vocal section over the top of the main intro.  This leads into the verse.  This musical and lyrical verse was done in a classic Queensrÿche ballad style.  For the chorus the band changes the musical arrangement and picks the songs speed up just a little.  In many ways this track reminded me of the stuff the guys wrote when they were writing the album ‘Empire’.  Over the top of the breakdown section there was a spoken vocal section.  The solo was mainly used to connect the spoken vocal section with the last chorus. 
9.) “Man Down!” – This track opens with a soldier speaking.  Wilton’s rhythm guitar riff of the musical intro gives the song a very intense feel.  Scott plays a rhythm on his tom-tom’s for the intro section instead of a standard hi-hat rhythm.  The rhythm guitar riff leading into the musical pre-verse was heavily influenced by Arabic music.  There is a small rhythm change for the musical chorus.  I loved the lead guitar solo riff of this track!!!!
10.) “Remember Me” – This ballad opens with a soldier speaking over the top of a musical arrangement.  This simple musical arrangement blew me away!  It was just very subtle and matched the soldier’s voice perfectly!   Instead of changing the arrangement for the musical verse the guys added a second rhythm guitar.  As the pre-chorus progresses the song builds.  At times the chorus could be influenced by the band’s ‘Empire’ days.  To connect the first chorus d verse the band used with the second verse the band added the same soldier talking as the intro section.  Geoff’s vocals on this song are mesmerizing!!!!The lead guitar solo is after what I believe is the second chorus.  To connect the second chorus with the third verse the band used another snippet of an American soldier speaking.  The outro consisted of a soldier speaking.  The musical outro that runs underneath the soldier bleeds into the intro of track eleven.   
11.) “Home Again” – This track opens with a soldier talking over the top of a David Gilmoure influenced rhythm guitar riff.  This riff would fool most Gilmoure fans into believing it is actually the Floyd guitarist playing it.  For the musical verse the band added a acoustic guitar arrangement over top the electric and underneath Geoff’s vocal lines.  Geoff added odd vocal accents to certain lyrics within the lyric lines. There is a small orchestration section connecting the pre-verse with the verse.  It is also at this point when the band kicks the song in.  The musical verse and the way the lyrics were arranged show the reason the core of this band has been around as long as they have!  Emily Tate sings the second pre-verse and verse.  These two pre-verses and verses were arranged as if they where letters written back and forth.  The solo for this track was very laid back and subtle.  LET’S GIVE A BIG HAND TO THE VOCAL JOB GEOFF’S DAUGHTER EMILY DONE ON THIS TRACK.
12.) “The Voice” – This track opens with the distant sound of gun fire and bombs going off.  There is a small spoken vocal section right before the intro.  The main musical intro had a very simple Queensrÿche feel to it.  The main instrumentation of the intro section was the keyboard arrangement.  I loved Rockenfeild’s bass drum pattern of the musical verse.  The cello arrangement filled in several of the emptiness left by the other instruments.  There is a small vocal line over the top of the lead guitar solo this vocal line was done with a vocal effect.  In the way they arranged this track made for a great ending to a great classic concept album.

“….And people sometimes lose the vision of where we came from.  They’re sitting in the lap of luxury in a country that was build on over 3.5 million deaths…”
So begins the saga of American Soldier.
Brace yourself for the boldest statement of Queensÿche’s storied career.


     For Geoff, Michael, Ed and Scott’s twelfth studio release, titled ‘American Soldier’ the band envisioned an epic concept of war as seen through the eyes of the soldier.  Consisting of twelve tracks Queensrÿche takes you on an epic adventure from basic training, through battle, through being wounded, to home, a complete full circle.  Not only did the guys do their research by talking with military personal that fought in wars from WWII through serving in Iraq however, they laced those tapes in with the songs.  Laced within the musical arrangements and lyric lines are actual taped soldiers speaking.  This added a whole different dynamic to the concept then it would have if Geoff had of taken their words and written lyrics.
     For those Queensrÿche out there who served or have family members that or currently serving in Iraq or served in one of the past conflicts you will relate to this release.  For me, I have a great-uncle who served multiple tours of Vietnam as a helicopter pilot; both my father and his twin brother that served in Vietnam, and my little brother done a tour in Iraq.  When you asked them about it, and I’m sure this is for most families, they kind of tear up and say we done a job we were asked to do.  So for this release it gives you a little insight into the normal American soldier’s pshycie during war time. 
     If you are looking for ‘Operation Mindcrime’, then go buy it.  This is not ‘Mindcrime’ in fact musically it is nowhere close.  Though it’s a masterpiece it’s time to move on.  Geoff uses the stories as a binding agent for the story line.  Which just shows how intelligent the guys are and what they are capable of!